Saw an interesting story out there floated by various economists and think-tanks stating the next “bubble” of economic collapse will come from the higher education industry (and believe me, it’s an industry, as evidenced by my $340 monthly payment to Citibank Student Loans)…
From Tech Crunch’s article by Sarah Lacy:
“Instead, for Thiel, the bubble that has taken the place of housing is the higher education bubble. “A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” he says. “Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”
I love being in school, and being a student. I’m a knowledge sponge in topics that interest me. I respect teachers and professors. But the way our education system creates a nasty cycle of coziness disturbs me – from the tuition, books, technology/software, and expenses we all pay for that come out of student loans and go right back to big corporations with no regard for their customers.
So it’s been months since I’ve posted on here. No surprise, as the hosting expired and I had to renew the domain name in February. But now that my Big 12 internship is approaching its conclusion (ending late June) I’m beginning to look for my next opportunity, where ever it may be. I’d love to stay in the Big 12 “footprint” (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas) because I have lots of friends/acquaintances/professional contacts inside said footprint, especially in the video/internet/broadcast/media realms. And believe me, I love the energy and enthusiasm people have around here for the Big 12 schools. It’s been awesome to get a dose of the Big 12 “South” alumni and fans in Texas after spending four years in Missouri. So in terms of work atmosphere and passion for the “cause” of Big 12 sports, this is a fantastic location as I’m sure the “hubs” of other big D-1 conferences are too, such as Kansas City (Big 12), Chicago (Big Ten), Atlanta (SEC), Charlotte (ACC), and New York (Big East).
Yet, I feel a calling to return to the East Coast where most of my family is. It’s hard to put a price tag on seeing loved ones often, and I know I’ve missed out on a lot of birthdays, holidays, family gatherings, etc. in my years away from home. So that’s what is on my mind as I begin to look for a “real” job…
I know it’s always been trendy and cool to bash the BCS, but I’ve always liked the system on its premise. I’m one of the few people out there NOT in favor of a playoff. Critics need to realize when the BCS was created in 1998, fans were tired of having dual/shared national championships – just look at the list of schools claiming “consensus national championships” from 1990-1997 (for sake of argument, I’m going off the Wikipedia page with its plethora of arithmetic and human polls, so bear with me):
1990: Colorado (AP/USAT-CNN), Georgia Tech (UPI),
1991: Miami (AP), Washington (UPI, USAT-CNN)
[Beginning of "Bowl Coalition"]
1992: Alabama (AP, UPI, USAT-CNN)
1993: Florida State (AP, UPI, USAT-CNN)
1994: Nebraska, Penn State
[Beginning of "Bowl Alliance"]
1995: Nebraska (consensus)
1996: Florida (consensus)
1997: Nebraska (USAT-ESPN), Michigan (AP)
The 1997 “championship” is most bizarre, because both teams from power conferences went undefeated. 1995 and 1996 appear somewhat normal. 1994 though, again, is where problems come up. Both Nebraska and Penn State went undefeated, won their bowl games, and finished #1 in various polls, claiming national championships because they didn’t face off head-to-head. What to do?
So the BCS was an idea that “smart” people came up with to determine a “true” national champion. In context and in the time of its creation, it seems like a good idea - create a formula that manages to match the “true” #1 team against the “true” #2 team and determine the national champion that way. In the mid-1990s, we didn’t have Boise State competing on a national level and winning the big bowl games – i.e. the Fiesta. We didn’t see TCU competing every year in the top 25 of the rankings. So of course the system was created to benefit the well-known conferences – Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC, Big East, ACC, and Notre Dame (based simply on their history of winning) because a. no one cared about the small conferences or schools, and b. no one got to see them play when power-conference games took the few existing TV broadcast windows. Simply out of sight, out of mind. Just think about it – we didn’t have the creativity or leverage of existing networks to schedule games on weeknights, and we didn’t have the technology or viewer appetite to show 50 different games on Saturdays. Just this 2010 season it seems we’ve seen Boise State on ESPN for every game they’ve played. And justifiably so, given the track record they’ve developed over the past five years – winning two BCS bowl games, finishing in the top 25 every year, yada yada. The latest true tweaks to the BCS came after the 2004 season when Auburn, USC, and Utah all finished undefeated – so who the hell finishes #1? The BCS folks changed the formula to take out the AP Poll, and then decided to allow:
“The champion of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, or the Western Athletic Conference will earn an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game if either:
A. Such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings, or, B. Such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls.”
While this allows teams like Boise State and TCU access to the party, it obviously doesn’t guarantee playing for the national championship nor does it reward them for finishing with undefeated records. Sure, this is something that should be looked into in the future. As I wrote above, I like the current format because you’re rewarded for playing your regular season. The NFL is a joke to me because games in September truly mean nothing. But, there’s been a system established over 40 years that says IF YOU MAKE THE PLAYOFFS AND WIN YOU WILL PLAY FOR THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP. College football’s system has been WIN YOUR GAMES IN THE REGULAR SEASON AND YOU MIGHT GO TO A BOWL GAME WHERE YOU’RE VOTED NATIONAL CHAMPION AFTERWARDS — hence the BCS’s attempts to match the #1 and #2 teams, regardless of whether they’re “truly” the #1 or #2 teams in the country. One problem taken care of, another created.
I just can’t understand the screaming for a 16-team playoff when college football has ALWAYS been about the regular season and the bowl system. It feels so cheap and whorish to simply create a playoff and go for the NFL mode where a team can essentially skip two months of the season and make the postseason. Sure, college teams take a month off with non-conference games, but that is easily fixed with more progressive scheduling (i.e. playing conference games earlier), and the fact there’s no NFL-style preseason to get tuned up. The “plus-one model” would have been the best way to go to solve the access problem for the Boises and TCUs of the world – get to the top 4 nationally, and you should deserve a shot to play for the national championship, especially if a #3 or #4 ranked team is undefeated. But, the powers that be killed it (for many reasons, namely money) before it got out of committee behind closed doors at the conference/BCS commissioners level.
I think the current model will eventually be tweaked, and it’s just a matter of time — the chips are already in place, the TCUs and Boises have proved they can compete with the big dogs — but until then, enjoy the fact that every Saturday from September til the first weekend in December is worth watching.
Anyway, just my thoughts. I get annoyed when the quick solution to college football’s problems is “just have a playoff!” And especially the laziness from journalists that fail to take into account the context in which the BCS exists.
Long story short, I left Palm Springs after the Big 12 Conference offered me the 1-year internship/co-op position of “Internet Services Assistant” in June. I started on July 1st and it’s been an absolute joy. It really doesn’t feel like work at all. The hours are very low-stress, usually 8 to 5 unless I have to stay late and get something done. My job entails making videos and graphics for Big12sports.com – we started with Big 12 Athlete of the Year videos for each school, then football previews and preseason awards. Today, I finished a feature nat-sound package about the Missouri football student-athletes and their trip to Big 12 football media days this past week. After meeting them at DFW’s general aviation area (see – luxury/no security/no lines/free parking) I followed my alma mater’s football representatives around for a little while (Blaine Gabbert, Derrick Washington, and Kevin Rutland) and shot some video of their nonstop interviews with TV, radio, and print reporters. I felt like getting to talk with Gabbert, Washington, and Rutland was cool because they were pretty candid about their thoughts on media day (both good and bad). Coach Gary Pinkel was his usual AMERICUH self – so old school 1960s mannerisms and unique twang he’s developed after years of coaching in Ohio, Washington, and Missouri. I also got Missouri’s SID Chad Moller on-camera to talk about what it’s like on his end with the student-athletes and making sure they’re comfortable at such a big event.
Afterwards, I rode with the guys back to the airport and planned on keeping the camera rolling like I did on the way to the hotel. But my zooming in on coach Pinkel apparently annoyed him, and, in his most Americuh twang and death-stare, growled at me, “I need that off.” I chuckled and complied – we had agreed beforehand it would be OK with me to turn it off if requested. I completely understood wanting the camera off – he’d been in interviews for 5 hours straight and wanted to talk freely for once with his guys…which he did, and I enjoyed listening to it as he had some interesting things to say. Just one of those things…it was cooler with the camera off anyway because I got to hear stuff I wouldn’t have had it been on. I bade them farewell at the airport and shot some video of them getting into the plane, then taxiing away.
I talked to a few guys from Colorado, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma to see if their experiences were similar. And, for the most part, they were. Nate Solder from Colorado and Steven Sheffield from Texas Tech were really cool guys, as was Travis Lewis from Oklahoma. All 3 appear in my pkg.
I’ll try to get back to blogging more often now that I have a pretty regular work schedule!
Graduation – an emotional yet exciting day. The family really enjoyed the trip to Columbia from NJ via Kansas City, and I’m glad they got a good taste of where I’d spent 4 years of my life. I won’t lie – I shed quite a few tears the day before my departure. Saying goodbye to my parents and siblings in a Break Time gas station parking lot on Providence Road, they drove off not knowing when we’ll see each other again. As I returned to my apartment and continued to pack, eventually bringing most of my worldly possessions to a storage unit south of town, it hit me that I was out of there. Done. Not living in Columbia again – incredibly daunting and scary. The whole notion of leaving…being done…moving on to a new challenge, new area, and completely new [cliche alert] chapter in my life was so much to handle in one day, on top of worrying about moving all my stuff out of my apartment. Plus, knowing I’d be leaving friends I’ve spent so much time with over the past few years behind, I’m not gonna lie, I was really an emotional wreck.
But I pulled it together and managed to hit the road bright and early on Monday morning. I was essentially on I-70 the entire day. I stopped for lunch and gas in Salina, KS – a surprisingly very nice town. I did not expect it, but apparently there’s a thriving arts and tourism community there. I couldn’t figure out what else was a big economic engine in the area – shipping? Air/rail freight? I vaguely recall hearing Salina is a big stop-off for that stuff, but whatever. Roughly a 45 minutes to an hour from Manhattan, and longer from Wichita, I couldn’t figure it out. But I digress.
I continued west on I-70 through famed western Kansas, which is, indeed, flat and boring. Eastern and Central Kansas are mildly interesting since there’s stuff to look at, for the most part i.e. Lawrence, Topeka, enormous wind farms, the Flint Hills, etc. But as you get further and further from KC, everything becomes far more spread out. It stays that way almost the whole way through eastern Colorado and up to Denver. I stayed overnight in Denver, and absolutely loved it. It seemed like a beautiful, well-designed, well-integrated (compared to St. Louis or Kansas City) city with tons of stuff to do outdoors and around town. I stayed close to Invesco Field and downtown, so it was easy to get cool views of the city at night. In the morning, I hit the road and headed west again into the mountains on I-70. This was an absolutely incredible ride – I’d never seen the Rocky Mountains before, and to experience them in their full glory was amazing. Ascending and descending the various mountain passes was literally quite breathtaking. Upon reaching the summit of the Eisenhower Tunnel, you really begin to feel the elevation. I definitely got a headache and felt the altitude…but it could have been from all the coffee I’d been guzzling along the way. After that, you slowly descend from the Rockies and cut through some incredible scenery – in particular, the Glenwood Canyon, which is perhaps one of the coolest, most spectacular stretches I’ve ever driven. Check it out here -
After that, you slowly get out of the Rockies into Utah, but it stays just as majestic. The weather was annoying – spitting rain and somewhat chilly – so it was irritating to have to use my wipers. It’s between Green River, Utah, and Salina, Utah, where you see an ominous “No Services Next 110 Miles” – which makes the drive seem even more adventurous and exciting. The road snakes and cuts through numerous passes, eventually taking you to The Fishlake National Forest - pretty wild to pass through because there was still snow on the ground along the mountains. As you continue through and along the mountains, you pass through miles and miles of ranching and seemingly-old-country-western land. I stopped in Cedar City, Utah, for gas and an adapter to charge my camera so I could continue to take pictures of the ride. After Cedar City, you start to enter the outskirts of the desert. The mountains become more barren, and the vegetation becomes less lush. By the time you reach St. George, Utah, you’re in the desert. St. George, a growing town home to Southern Utah University and what appears to be plenty of retirement-home driven sprawl. You then enter the northwest corner of Arizona and the Virgin River Canyon, another insanely majestic swath of road. Instead of the gray and green colors everywhere in the Glenwood Canyon, the Virgin River Canyon is red, orange, and Mars-like. You exit the canyon into a desert valley. It was here that a tumbleweed flew across the road in front of me! From there it was about a little over an hour to Las Vegas, which looms on the horizon as it does in most movies or TV shows that depict it from afar. My first time ever in the Las Vegas area, I was weirded out by the notion of living in the desert. Bizarre. I checked into my hotel in Henderson (20 minutes from downtown) and chilled.
The next day, I got up early and went down to visit the Hoover Dam. That was wild. The drive down into the canyon is amazing. I really enjoyed the trip there and took a bunch of pictures. After that, I drove back to Vegas and visited the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop – famous for the “Pawn Stars” TV show of which I enjoy. Unfortunately, the guys from the show weren’t in the shop that day, but I did see a ton of the goodies they buy/sell on the show inside the shop. It’s definitely worth going there to check out all the cool antiques and rare items they have – all of which the shop prides on being authentic. From there, I drove down “The Strip” and saw all of Vegas in its pathetic glory. What a dump. I checked out 2 casinos, and made futures college football bets for fun in Caesers – $5 on Mizzou to win the national championship at 150/1 odds – so if somehow they do win, I’ll be up about $700 I also figured I’d throw down $5 for Boise State and Ohio State to win it all, at 12/1 and 8/1 each. After that, I headed back to Henderson, worked out in its majestic fitness center, and ventured out again to get In & Out Burger for dinner – totally worth it and legit as people claim it to be.
The next morning I departed the hotel headed for Palm Springs/Indio. I drove south via US-95 to US-62 through the heart of the Mojave Desert. More than half the drive was 1 lane in each direction with about 30 miles between tiny desert hamlets – pretty wild. Thankfully the Acura was running very well, so I didn’t have any problems. I had the Phillies/Cubs game on my XM Radio to keep me company! Eventually, I arrived in Indio and met the Zeiles – awesome people, unpacked, and headed out to Palm Springs, and here I am about 2 and a half weeks later.
After a 1,800 mile trip from Columbia, MO, to Palm Springs/Indio, CA, I’ve been hard at work for the Palm Springs Power. It hasn’t been what I expected, but I’m not too concerned about that. I’m just glad the season has started.
“Sony is going to stop making 3.5 inch floppy disks next year. The ubiquitous disks (mailed out seemingly dozens of times per household from AOL) went into production 30 years ago, back when they represented a major uptick in storage and convenience. Crunchgear reports that demand for the discs peaked 15 years ago, but Sony kept pressing on. Hitachi and Mitsubishi stopped making floppies last year.”(from lostremote.com – full link here)
So the days of loading up a Word document through a noisy floppy disk are over. Shoot. I remember how fun it was to have your own floppy disk in 3rd grade so you could save your progress in the extremely cheesy typing program whose name eludes me since it’s been about 13 years since I used it. But basically it involved you “learning” how to properly type on a computer keyboard through virtual games hosted by some sort of stupid ghost with a high-pitched voice.
But anyway…kind of got me thinking about how portable information has become since we were kids. Instead of hauling around a floppy disk that could only hold about a hundred files (at most!) we’re using flash drives, junk drives, and, if you’re on-par with the current zenith of technology, Google Docs and other online, real-time collaboration tools. Obviously it makes journalism much more portable in written stories and still photography. For me as a sports broadcaster though, we’re still sort of locked into a linear model, especially at a place like KOMU, where unless you’ve brought a “mobile edit bay” you have to return to the station to cut video and get a story in. There’s gotta be a medium somehow that allows us to keep the high-quality video and audio we use on-air while cutting down on the time we waste in travel, converting, and importing video.
Despite the absurd amount of rain this weekend, I still love this time of the year. Baseball is now officially in full swing. I have something to look forward to every day – even if it’s my lame-o Mets, shockingly winners of 3 in a row and now back to .500. MLBTV is one of the best gifts or investments you can make or give if you’re a big baseball fan because it provides almost unlimited hours of entertainment on days with a full slate of games. I’m also really happy I asked for Sirius/XM radio for my car for Christmas this past year, because road trips and drives around town become WAY more tolerable with baseball going on. I’ve really enjoyed hearing some of the crews from teams I haven’t listened to before – in particular, Seattle’s Dave Niehaus and Rick Rizzs, and Milwaukee’s Bob Uecker. I’ve also enjoyed being able to finally pick up a strong signal for the Royals’ Denny Matthews and Bob Davis, because Columbia seems to be well outside the range of the largest MLB radio network for some reason. Meanwhile there are about 3 stations in the area with the Cardinals’ broadcast…go figure.
Plus, this is the time of year with fantasy baseball at full swing. One of the leagues I’m in with guys from high school is VERY competitive, fun, and entertaining. I spend tons of time discussing matchups, stats, and funny events online with guys in the league. We only pay $20 per person to the league to pay for a trophy and provide a small prize for the eventual champion. Charting guys on our teams becomes a daily activity and helps make potentially mundane games more interesting.
If the Mets stay in contention, this will be even more fun in the fall, when college football gets started too.
So there’s been quite a bit of publicity lately over Google choosing a city to make as a host site for its uber-fast fiber connection. You can check out the extent to which some cities are going from this story by my colleague Alex Rozier.
On paper, it sounds like a great idea. It’d be huge for Mid-Missouri to get a major global connection through the world’s biggest and most powerful internet behemoth. Plus, it would be outstanding to upgrade the city’s feeble internet capability to a speed never yet seen in America, let alone Missouri. The connection would allow MU to bring tons of high-caliber students, professors, and investment thanks to the obvious attractiveness of gigabyte-per-second speed. Mid-Missouri could certainly benefit from the connection bringing lots of jobs – from cushy high-paying engineering jobs to internet hosting, construction jobs for all the infrastructure, and tons of further development. It really does sound like a great deal – and certainly Columbia fits the bill for what Google is looking for.
But I think we need to step back and take a look at what Google is going to require to come to Columbia. Nate Anderson of Ars Technica does a good job explaining the background to Google’s search for a city. Essentially, Google appears to not be asking for much in return for this. But let’s be honest – once they choose a city, the public hoopla will be so big, a city will HAVE to pay whatever Google’s price is to have them come in. Their own site for FAQs says “The final price has not yet been determined, but we intend to offer service at a competitive price.” In California, Verizon installed FiOS, a comparable internet service for roughly $682 million.That’s an enormous chunk of change that towers over Columbia’s yearly budget (usually in the range of $70-80 million).
So how much would Google want from the city of Columbia to potentially install all this? Or would they just do it gratis, and expect a major share of the subsequent financial avalanche of investment? Or is it just like buying internet service where you choose what you want? What information does Google want in return? Their mission, after all, is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” (more here). It might be kind of cool to be able to pull up various governmental statistics in moments, but what about tax documents, medical records, addresses and phone numbers, and just about any other information considered “personal” and “private”? All of these questions seem very muddled in the hype over “Saint Google”.
I’m very skeptical of all of this. Yes, as I wrote above, it sounds wonderful. But it sort of reminds me of what my Indigenous People and Natural Resources class has been discussing for the past few weeks – how major corporations infiltrate local communities in 3rd world/undeveloped countries and exploit them and their land for cheap/easy industrial development – otherwise known as neocolonialism. Pardon my snarkiness, but Columbia’s Google Fiber cheerleaders over at comofiber.net remind me of some sort of Ecuadorian tribe emerging from the jungle cheering the arrival of missionaries promising to improve their lives – and 3 months later, they’re uprooted and moved to a reservation while the company comes in and takes their land/resources. Obviously, that won’t happen in reality should Google come here, but we really need to consider what Google is asking for should they come here. And, we shouldn’t be afraid to question the company. We can’t treat them like some sort of emperor swooping in to his colony with unlimited power – let’s get a good deal for Columbia that gives us the best of what Google can offer while not totally submitting to their will.
So I think we’ve done a tremendous job so far with komusports.blogspot.com. Will and I have done almost all the work on the site as far as content and posts. This past week, we had 2 local teams playing in Union, roughly an hour and a half drive from Columbia. Since Will was shooting the game and planning on FTPing the highlights back, I figured I’d ride along and do stuff with the blog – upload pictures to Flikr during the game, tweet score updates with the KOMUSports account on CoTweet, and basically live-blog the game. Thanks to Union HS’s speedy wireless internet, I think it was a rousing success. We beat the heck out of the competition with the amount of content we got online and on-air. I think (although I’m not certain) we plugged the blog site during the 6 and 10 sportscasts, so hopefully people went online to check it out. I have no idea how many hits we got, so I’d really like to add some sort of tracking to the blog so we can see how many people we’re getting.
Tracking my visitors is one of the more interesting things about running brianmortensen.com. I know most of the “service providers” based on who is visiting – i.e., the most visits is from “Centurytel internet holdings inc” – my apartment, so that’s me logging on there to change things, while the 3 visits from “Verizon Internet Services Inc” is most likely my family on their Verizon Fios in NJ. I’ve gotten some assorted, random visitors from people I don’t know – for instance, “Headquarters usaisc” appears to be some sort of government intelligence service who stopped by for 19 seconds, while a user named “Microsoft Corp” stopped by and briefly checked out the site . Clearly, my website has oodles of secret information on it worth monitoring…But anyway, it’s indeed fun to see who’s been on it. Even my grandparents have seen it – “Cox Communications” is their internet provider in Virginia.
Anyway…Back to the komusports.blogspot.com – I can’t wait to upgrade its appearance. It definitely looks a bit bare with too much white on it. I’d love to get some columns on the side with various info boxes, pictures, links, etc. Jen says we’ll get to work with when KOMU unveils their new website layout – so I can’t wait for that!!
I covered the Rally of The 100 Acre Wood this past weekend, and boy, it was a great time. I’m lucky I got the chance to do it – back in mid-January, Eric Blumberg, KOMU’s assistant sports director, asked if anyone knew about rally racing after he received an email from a viewer asking if we’d be covering it this year. I said something to the effect of “Hell yeah” when Blumberg asked about it. So I immediately went on Rally-America.com and went through the media registration process. I was thrilled I’d have the chance to finally get to a rally – in all places – about 2 hours from our station.
I’ve always loved watching the World Rally Championship – I have about 15 old VHS season review videos and “In-Car Experience” montage videos in a box in my closet – and I basically grew up watching this stuff without ever getting the chance to see it in person. When Cablevision added Speedchannel to my family’s cable package in the mid 00′s, I was finally able to watch guys like Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz, Marcus Gronholm, and other legends duke it out. I vaguely remember catching some of Speedchannel’s coverage of Rally America back then, too. So you can imagine how pumped I was to hear about the rally in Missouri. To be honest, though, I haven’t followed the WRC lately because Speedchannel has cut back big time on their coverage and essentially only shows NASCAR. But I knew Travis Pastrana had been competing in Rally America along with Ken Block and a few other “bigtime” guys, and that Subaru has always been a big entrant in the series. What I didn’t know was that now Ford has been making a BIG effort to get the Fiesta competitive – it seems they have a big budget for R&D, promotions, and signing one of the most popular American drivers in Ken Block and entering him in both the American series, and selected WRC rallies.
For the whole week up to the rally, I was pumped. I barely slept the night beforehand, even though I had to be up at 3AM to get ready, get to the station and get the gear, then hit the road, so I thought i’d be tired – but that’s nothing 2 big coffees from Quik Trip can’t solve! The drive down to Salem was fun – I’d never been down Highway 63 past Jefferson City – I’ve been east on Highway 50 for a ways, but I hadn’t experienced the fun of the one-lane-in-each-direction driving through steep, winding hills that is Highway 63 south of Jefferson City. I crossed over I-44 in St. James and from there, it really got fun. I could see just why the area was perfect for a rally – tons of hills, curvy, tight roads, and plenty of nature. I arrived in Salem very early, around 7AM, and figured I’d get breakfast, so I hit up the “Red Hen Breakfast Cafe” where I enjoyed a big homemade omelette. After I finished up there, I made my way over to where the “parc expose”, or basically where all the cars would park, and got acquainted with the media contacts from Rally America. View Larger Map
After that, I made my way up and down the street checking out all the cars as they rolled in. A good crowd had already gathered to check out the cars and try to get autographs by this point – about 8:30am. The crowd mobbed Travis Pastrana and Ken Block, so I figured I’d try to interview more amateur/shoestring budget type guys. I found some great interviews – Burak Tuğlu, driver of a 2001 Ford Focus, and Jason Grahn, codriver of a newer Subaru Impreza, then two volunteers – Thomas McDonald and Matt Smith, who had both driven down to Salem from Columbia, making the story even more interesting since they were 2 local guys getting involved. Meanwhile Tuğlu and Grahn had both traveled long distances to get to Salem, so it really added that unique angle as well to have them in the story.
So with all my interviews done, I waited around to head out to the stages. I went with a convoy of “inexperienced” photogs and headed out to a stage. After a lot of waiting around, the stage finally began. I set up on the inside of the 1st corner so I could have a full shot of the cars going uphill at full tilt. Of course, it made for awesome video and I was really happy with what I got. After the stage ended, we rode out to the service area. It was here I hooked up with Ford’s Brent Maurer – the account director and PR manager for some of their racing exploits. I basically rode around with him for the rest of the day in his luxurious rented Ford Escape – a nice ride. After hanging out at the service area and grabbing lunch from the always-great Caseys General Store in Viburnum, we headed to Potosi for the superspecial stage. There was a little more freedom here to move around and shoot where ever we wanted. I also shot a standup here where I talked about the modifications to Ken Block’s Fiesta that make it different from a typical street car.
The first guy off the blocks in the superspecial was Travis Pastrana, and on his 2nd turn of the loop, he broke a piece of his Subaru’s left-rear suspension. He struggled to the end of the stage and pulled off by the exit of the park and got out. From my vantage point up on a hill several hundred yards away, I could tell his Subaru was in trouble. His delay, and eventual retirement from the rally boosted Ken Block into the lead – a major shakeup in the rally and the championship standings. Had Pastrana held the lead and gone on to win, he would have built a commanding lead in the drivers’ championship, but with his retirement Block became an immediate contender in just his 1st season with Ford. I shot just a few more cars on the stage, then headed down to Pastrana’s car and got some video of him and his codriver trying to fix the suspension. I grabbed the stick mic and went over to Pastrana to ask him what happened, and he seemed happy to oblige for a quick interview – he was pretty funny, he said something like “Hi there!” in a tone I didn’t expect from a guy who just wrecked out of the rally. He blamed his exit on himself and overall had some great emotion – a great bite.
We took off from the superspecial and made our way back to Salem via Viburnum for a quick stop at the Ford service area, where the crew was working on Block’s car and getting it ready for the next few stages of the night, as by this point in the day the sun was setting. Maurer dropped me off in Salem, and we exchanged contact info. I think he’ll be a great contact to have in the racing industry – of course that’d be an awesome area for me to potentially work in the future.
I made the drive back to Columbia via Jefferson City and a stop at Kate & Ally’s Pizza – of course, a necessary part of any trip through there! On Sunday I began putting the story together and eventually we had it run in the news portion of the show instead of sports because of the Olympics shortening our time. Here’s the finished product, and I was really pleased with it. I got a lot of great feedback on it.